Not to be confused with the white Southern gospel group of the same name, the Steeles are a family gospel quartet from Minneapolis who carved out an alternate niche backing rock and pop artists, achieving their greatest level of exposure in that arena through their work with Prince in the '90s. Main songwriter J.D. Steele, his brother Fred, and his sisters Jevetta Steele and Jearlyn Steele Battle began their musical career opening for black gospel legends like Mahalia Jackson and the Staple Singers, but also found themselves in demand as session vocalists, recording with George Clinton, Fine Young Cannibals, Kim Carnes, 10,000 Maniacs, and Big Head Todd and the Monsters, among others. Additionally, the Jevetta Steele-performed song "Calling You," from the 1987 film Bagdad Cafe, was nominated for a Best Song Oscar. The Steeles' biggest break as a group came when Prince featured them on his 1990 Graffiti Bridge album, since their interest in classic R&B, soul, and jazz meshed well with Prince's own eclecticism. With Prince's help (and one of his compositions), the Steeles released their grittily soulful debut album, Heaven Help Us All, in 1993. They went on to star in the Broadway production The Gospel at Colonus, and released a second album, Better Love, in 1997. Jevetta Steele went on to star in the national touring production of the opera African Portraits, and also performed with the history-minded, Grammy-winning gospel group Sounds of Blackness.
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